Between servanthood and sonship

Joshua 12:6: Moses, the servant of the LORD, and the people of Israel defeated them. And Moses the servant of the LORD gave their land for a possession to the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh. (ESV)

construction-worker-513866_640Twice in one verse, Moses was called the servant of the Lord. While that was the highest level of relationship with God one can attain in the Old Testament, with the coming of Jesus a new vista of relationship with God was opened. We can now be sons of God. At different times, Jesus impresses this reality on us. The salvation experience in Jesus includes our being given the right to be called children of God (John 1:12).

God made Adam to be his son, but that revelation was not revealed in the Old Testament after man sinned. It was not until the first chapters of the book of Luke that we read that Adam was Son of God (Luke 3:38).

It makes a lot of sense since he was made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-28). He was set up to be the full representation of God more than any other being in the world. But Jesus who was God from the outset, was made a little lower than God for the suffering of death for everyman (Hebrews 2:9), so that we can come into life, that the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, can come into us as it happened with the first Adam, for us to now be called sons of God, as he was.

Servanthood has with it the concept of working. It is not a bad word. People like Paul though sons of God in their own right having been saved by grace, adorn the phrase “servant of God.” Jesus was also declared to be servant of God (Isaiah 52:13-14), and he is the ultimate Son of God.

To be a servant of God is a privileged position but it is lower than to be a child of God. Jesus said that of everyone born of a woman, the greatest was John the Baptist but the least in God’s kingdom is greater than him (Matthew 11:11). That highlights the importance of sonship, and how even the weakest saint, is greater than the greatest Old Testament servant of God, of which John the Baptist was one.

You may not feel like it, but that is the way it is. The bible says that those Old Testament greats, will not be complete without us (Hebrews 11:38-40). While we need them as examples, they need us in eternity. Their understanding of God will not be complete without seeing how we express God in this age. They will not be all they can be without us.

While the Old Testament saint walked with God, they were limited by their sinful flesh. But right now the blood of Jesus has been shed and the issue of sin permanently taken care of in use who believe. We are changed in our spiritual essence, we are new creatures (2Corinthians 5:17), with elevated status in the realm of the spirit, as we have been raised up on high to sit with Jesus far above principality and power (Ephesians 2:5-6, 1:15-22).

A son gets to serve better. While one who is strictly a servant serves based on instruction given to him, the son serves based on shared identity and purpose with the father.

He serves from the depth of the relationship he has with the father, and therefore able to communicate not just obedience to the father, but the heart of the father. That was why a voice came from heaven concerning Jesus: this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased hear him (Mark 1:11), before he did anything for God, for which he was called to do.

The son does not serve by compulsion, but by choice, and therefore by love, giving a higher level of quality to the service. A servant have to serve to earn his keep. Being conscious of your sonship makes you divorce your service from your blessing. You do not labour until you drop to get a little blessing.

While there is blessing in service, being a child comes with an inherent unconditional blessing, rights to everything the father has. The bible talks about the blessedness of those whose sin are washed away, being one of the blessings of faith in Jesus (Romans 4:1-13). Therefore a son is blessed by being the son. It is as simple as that.

Only a son is capable of labour of love. For a servant it is capable of labour by compulsion, for rewards, for relevance, for promotion. But in the sonship consciousness, we serve out of our union with the father, out of our love for him.

Love is a statement of relationship. We are told to love the lord our God with all our heart, soul, might and mind (Mark 12:30). It is from that base that our service flows. And the Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of sonship whereby we cry Abba father (Romans 8:15), has shed the love of God in our heart (Romans 5:5).

In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) told by Jesus, while he was willing to condescend to the low estate (Romans 12:16) of being a servant in his father’s house, when he was down and out because of his excesses, he was restored back to sonship.

He was blessed on a permanent basis because he was a son, apart from works, which is what servants do to be “blessed,” to remain in the favour of the master. But the dynamics for a child is different. He is blessed, favoured by just being a son, not by anything he does or did not do, as long as he stays close to the father.

Though there were two sons, both needed to learn the balance between the freedom of sonship and the commitment of servanthood. The older son tilted have the commitment of servanthood, while the younger tilted to the side of the freedom of sonship.

The latter wasted away his belonging and his life in foreign land away from the father, while the older wasted away in service in the fathers field, not having a life, deprived of the love experience with the father because of his work consciousness.

He defined himself strictly in servanthood terms, finding it easy to speak to them than to the father, which shows that there was a problem in his relationship with the father, while the younger son, who lost everything found out he did not lose anything since he still has the father’s love, which was constant, unchanging.

A son has privileges, but a servant does not. Teaching the disciple about the meaning of being his servants, Jesus said that after they have served him, they should refer to themselves as unprofitable servants who have only done what is expected of them, with no claim, rights, or privileges (Luke 17:7-10). That is the attitude we should engage in with our service.

However, in the divine calculation, everything will be rewarded. There is the judgement seat of Christ where we will receive reward for whatever we have done in the flesh (2Corinthians 5:10). So service do not go to waste. The bible say that God is not unrighteous to forget our labour of love since we have ministered to and have continued to minister to the saints (Hebrews 6:10).


4 thoughts on “Between servanthood and sonship

  1. Hi Kayode, it is interesting to note that the concept of being children of God is not unknown in the Old Testament:
    (Dt 14:1)
    [1] You are the children of the LORD your God. Do not cut yourselves or shave the front of your heads for the dead,
    (Hosea 1:10)
    [10] “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’
    (Je 31:20)
    [20] Is not Ephraim my dear son,
    the child in whom I delight?
    Though I often speak against him,
    I still remember him.
    Therefore my heart yearns for him;
    I have great compassion for him,”
    declares the LORD.


  2. Hello just want to ask you i read an article where there is a statement that:”serving is not what we do is who we are”. And they continue that jesus was a servant so this is our identity.
    Is this statement true knowing that we are talking abt new testament as being children of god as identity!
    what is our identity servants or children of god?


    1. From my observation of the new testament I believe we are directly servants of Christ and in that sense we are servants of God since both Christ and God are one. Also we are children of God the Father, and in that sense the brethren of Jesus. Jesus said as the Father sent me, so I sent you. Just as Christ was the servant of God we are now the servants of Christ. And just as Christ is the son of God, we are sons of God by adoption. It is not are we either servants or sons. We are both. Thanks.


    2. Also, remember that in psalm two the Father promised to give the son the nation’s for his inheritance. We are Christ as possession, he bought us with his blood. For salvation we are to confess that Jesus is Lord according to Romans 10:9-10. If there is a Lord, then there are servants.

      But we are children of God also, having recieved Jesus into our heart. Sharing the essence of the son before the Father we become sons.


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